Apple App Store Roars Past 10 Billion Downloads

Apple's App Store passed the 10 billion mark with the download of a paper-airplane game that won its U.K. owner a $10,000 iTunes gift card.

The Apple App Store has passed a new milestone: the download of its 10 billionth application.

Apple, which has been counting down-or rather up-to the 11-figure mark, announced Jan. 22 that the application had been downloaded by a U.K. resident, Gail Davis, who downloaded Paper Glider-a game testing one's paper-airplane-throwing skills-and won a $10,000 iTunes gift card.

"With more than 10 billion apps downloaded in just two and a half years-a staggering 7 billion apps in the last year alone-the App Store has surpassed our wildest dreams," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. "The App Store has revolutionized how software is created, distributed, discovered and sold."

Indeed, Apple and its App Store started not so much a trend as a mobile lifestyle, making the offer of an application store de rigueur for operating-system manufacturers and handset vendors. The ideal situation is to control all three-hardware, OS and the application store-and to make each part as appealing as the others, and Apple's lesson hasn't been lost on its competitors.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion offers all three, but has struggled to stock its application store and to offer handsets that are as alluring to U.S. consumers as they've traditionally been to enterprise users.

Nokia, the main backer of the Symbian OS, has also worked to balance such a trio. While it too, has struggled in the high-end smartphone space in the United States, it finished out 2010 with an application milestone of its own: passing the 1 million downloads mark in its Ovi Store, according to the Philippine Star.

Hewlett-Packard, with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in July 2010 and its WebOS platform, has also put itself in the position of controlling all three, and so has Microsoft, though by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's account at the 2011 CES, its store is only 5,000 applications strong, compared with Apple's 350,000.

Of Apple's competitors, Google, which has released handsets under its own brand-first the HTC-made Nexus One and more recently the Samsung-made Nexus S-has been the most successful in growing the popularity of its operating system and the number of applications packing its store. During the third quarter of 2010, Android became the second-most-used OS worldwide, according to Gartner, gaining 25.5 percent of the market to Apple's 16.7 percent.

The number of applications in the Android Market has been estimated at approximately 200,000, but a January report from Netherlands-based research firm Distimo puts the figure at closer to 130,000. The report adds that while Apple's App Store contains the most applications overall, doubling its offerings over the course of 2010, its competitors' stores grew at still more furious rates.

While the RIM BlackBerry App World and Nokia Ovi Store posted triple-digit growth in 2010, to nearly 18,000 and 25,000 applications, respectively, Google's Android market finished 2010 with six times the number it started the year with.

"There seems to be a trend in the Apple App Store for iPhone toward more business-oriented applications, reflecting the switch and indicating that increasingly more consumers see the iPhone as a productivity tool," states the Distimo report. "Despite [its] business reputation, BlackBerry App World attracts more entertainment-focused applications. Google Android Market and Nokia Ovi Store show a more balanced category growth."

According to Apple, its applications are now available to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users in 90 countries, and more than 60,000 native applications for the iPad, which is certainly helping with Apple's download figures, are now available.

"While others try to copy the App Store," Apple's Schiller said in his statement, "it continues to offer developers and customers the most innovative experience on the planet."